"Fill me up, Lord," is a lyric from a song on the radio these days. I woke up with it in my mind this morning, so I went looking for it in the Bible, of course. It's not worded as a plea in the Bible; it's worded as a certainty. Psalm 16:11 reads, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."
There is quite a difference between a plea and a declaration. They come from totally different places in our lives. One comes from want, the other from confidence. Neither is wrong. When we ask God to fill us, often we have a list of things we want. We want the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2) - wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, power, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. Or we are asking for the fruits of the Spirit given in Galatians 5:22 - love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
But when we come from a place of confidence we can declare, "You will fill me with joy . . . . " That is where we long to be. We hunger for the place of certainty, knowing that God wants all good things for us, knowing that he would never deny us, knowing that we have the rights of children of God.
For Reflection: Where am I today? Am I asking for or declaring the gifts and the treasures of God?
Let us pray. "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." I thank you, Lord.
Do you know who you are? When you introduce yourself, what do you say? "I am . . . ." Usually our name is the first thing we give. But what if we could not give our name, we had to say something else. And the next word after "I am" has to be a noun, not an adjective. You must say something about who you are (spouse, spreader of the Good News) and not what you are (blessed) or how you look.
It may not be easy at first thought for us to name ourselves in this way. But Jesus gave us several examples for himself. He said, "I am the Light of the World" (John 8:12). It's a huge claim. He didn't say, "I am the Light of Jerusalem" or "I am the Light of Israel." Who is big enough, important enough, bold enough to be the Light of the World? Only Jesus.
For Reflection: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. I know where I came from and where I am going" (John 8:12, 14b). Do I know where I came from and where I am going? How do I complete the sentence,
"I am . . "?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the Light of the World. You are the light that draws everyone. You are the light that banishes the darkness of evil, corruption, inhumanity and sin. You are the light set on the hill of Calvary. You are the light of our lives. You are the light of the universe. You are the light of heaven.
In Luke 6:17-26 we have the blessings and woes. Much has been said about the blessings, also known as the beatitudes, but let's look at the last one of those and the last one of the woes. "Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets" (Luke 6:22-23), and "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets" (Luke 6:26).
Jesus is not speaking of the accolades that come with hard work and success in life which can be richly deserved. A person isn't awarded a Nobel prize without great accomplishment. Whoever wins a medal at the Olympics has worked long and hard and given up all other pursuits. That type of acclaim is not the subject of the blessings and woes in Luke 6.
No, Jesus is saying, "Woe to you who are yes men to kings and presidents, who lead people away from God rather than toward God." He is saying, "Blessed are you who truly speak the word of God." If we speak the word of God, we may well put ourselves in danger and suffer for it. For an example, we need only look back to our discussion of Elijah speaking God's word to King Ahab. Elijah had to go into hiding and be fed by ravens while the false prophets of Baal were feted at the King's court. Elijah spent years living with the widow while Ahab actively hunted him in order to kill him. But God kept Elijah safe. Elijah didn't feel blessed at the time, nor did he rejoice, but I'm sure his reward in heaven was great.
For Reflection: Have I ever had to stand up for what was right? If so, how did I do?
Let us pray. Jesus, I admit it's not easy to stand up publicly for your word and for what is right in your eyes. Still, I trust that when I do you will be with me and will give me the words to say. Help me to rejoice in insult and rejection on your behalf.
Many may be unfamiliar with the story of a Jewish woman who was forced to watch her seven sons be killed in the space of a single day. The story is told in 2 Maccabees 7 that the king was trying to force the family to eat pork. The account is extremely gruesome.
But the mother is lauded for combining "womanly emotion with manly courage" while she spoke words of encouragement to each of her sons. She reminded them that it was God who created the universe and gave them life, that God was merciful and would reward them with eternal life. She encouraged them to their death.
Lastly the mother died.
For Reflection: For all the mothers who send their sons (and daughters) off to war. For all the mothers who offer encouragement in times of persecution. For all the mothers who receive back the wounded and the dead, let us thank God.
Let us Pray. We do not know your ways, Lord, nor understand why some suffer so much for believing in God the Creator. But we thank you for the mothers who give life and encouragement to their families to keep to the laws of God. We entrust these mothers in their love and their sorrow to your care.
Two more brave women, largely unsung, figure into the story of Moses. Jochebed and Miriam were Moses's mother and sister. Since the Hebrew midwives wouldn't kill the boy babies when they were born, Pharaoh ordered all Hebrew women to throw their newborn sons into the Nile River. Jochebed didn't throw her son into the river. Rather she wove a small boat for him and placed him in the river where she knew he would be found by someone from Pharaoh's household. Then she posted her daughter Miriam as a watchwoman to see what would become of him.
When Pharaoh's daughter found him and wanted to keep the baby as his own, Miriam bravely stepped up and suggested that a Hebrew woman nurse him. So Jochebed got to keep him for a few more years (Exodus 1:22-2:10).
Jochebed, had to give up her son twice. First, when she put him in the river. Second, when she sent him to live with Pharaoh's daughter. She desired life for her son enough to go through all that so that he could live. Shiphrah and Puah had to stand up to Pharaoh and disobey his orders. Miriam, just a slave girl, had to speak to the princess of the land and make a suggestion. It took the courage of these four women to bring to life a man who would change the world. Without their tenacity, Moses's mission would not have come to fruition.
For Reflection: What sacrifices or decisions have I made that I didn't understand at the time, but later realized they made a big difference in my life? When have I had to be courageous?
Let us pray. Lord, I struggle to be courageous like Shiphrah and Puah, Jochebed and Miriam. I don't know that I could defy someone as powerful as Pharaoh if an unlawful order is made. Would I be as resourceful as Jochebed? As brave as Miriam? I don't know.
Many Christians around the world today are under persecution as powerful as that of Pharaoh, Lord. Help me to stand with them in prayer at least.
(Note: Many Christians will be standing in prayer for persecuted Christians in various nations on August 1. Won't you join us in prayer?)
This standing that we are to do in chapter 6 of Paul's encouragement to the Ephesians is one of holding our ground because the battle has already been won by Christ. Christ defeated the enemy so we are holding onto the ground he has already won. As Paul says elsewhere (Romans 8:37) we are more than conquerors. When we stand with Christ we are overcomers.
As has been pointed out by many authors over the years, the armor we are to put on is defensive, not offensive. We don't need to take the ground, we need only to hold it.
For Reflection: Since Christ has already won the battle, defeated the enemy, we should be praising and thanking him for that. We need not ask him to win the battle for us, it is already won. Let us stand in strength, serenity and confidence.
Let us pray. We thank you, Jesus, for having already won the battle. We praise you for your victory over every enemy. We praise you for your victory over temptation, sin and even death. We stand with you as victors, overcomers and conquerors.
Following God is seldom easy. We can look to the record of the prophets in the Old Testament and Jesus' closest disciples in the New Testament. Only John seems to have died of old age. Following God's directives, doing what Jesus told them to do, got them killed. It is the same today in many places in the world.
Sometimes those who follow Jesus do, or want to do, the wrong thing. When Peter cut off the ear of the servant of one of the men who had come to arrest Jesus, Jesus healed the man's ear. Even in a time of high stress, Jesus showed compassion and offered healing.
Another time Jesus had to rebuke James and John. When they had been refused hospitality in a Samaritan village (another case of no room in the inn?), they asked Jesus, "Do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" (Luke 9:54) Calling down fire from heaven seems like an extreme response to a small rejection, and certainly Jesus tells them they are out of order.
But what else does that question indicate to us? That they believed they had the power to call down fire from heaven.
For reflection: Jesus never called down fire from heaven, as far as we know. What made James and John think this was possible and appropriate? Is there a time when this might be appropriate?
Let us pray. Lord of Justice, Lord of Mercy. You who want all people to be saved and none to be lost, help us to curb our baser instincts and listen to your guiding wisdom. Help us to know how to use the power that you give us to increase your Kingdom on earth.
Another of Jesus' healings is of a man who is paralyzed (Matthew 9:1-8). The man's friends brought him to Jesus on a mat. Now we don't know how long the man had been paralyzed or why he was paralyzed. Was he born that way or was he hurt in an accident? How old is he? Is he married? We are not told.
The encounter is a little strange because the first thing Jesus says to the man is, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." His friends didn't bring him there to have his sins forgiven; they brought him to be healed. Evidently Jesus thought it more important to forgive his sins than to heal him physically (recall Matthew 5:27-30). Nevertheless Jesus heals him physically also.
Jesus attends to the full person - body and soul.
For reflection: Jesus is interested in the whole person. When I pray with someone for healing, am I listening to Holy Spirit for guidance about praying for the whole person? Who have I seen in the last few days who needs prayer for healing?
Let us pray. Jesus, you set an example that is not easy to follow. People don't bring friends to me for healing. I have to be brave enough to step up and ask if they would like prayer. Even though people seldom say "No", it still takes courage on my part. Strengthen me with more courage, please.
Jesus, according to the Gospels, worked miracles large and small. There were so many that the disciples didn't even try to record them all. When they did record them, they didn't always give specifics. Take for example just a few sentences of Matthew's gospel - 8:14-16. The first two verses are about the healing of Peter's mother-in-law. Probably the only reason this healing was mentioned is because it was Peter's mother-in-law. She had a fever. From just the touch of Jesus' hand, she was made well enough that she got up and started cooking and feeding them. It's not a big miracle unless you are the one down with a fever. But it was enough of a miracle that word spread because the next sentence gives it away: "When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick."
It's a big jump to go from healing a woman with a fever to healing the demon-possessed. But somehow people had hope that if they brought people with any kind of sickness to Jesus he would heal them. Their hope was not misplaced. He healed all the sick.
For reflection: How did we get from the evidence of the gospels that a big part of Jesus' ministry was healing people to the state of many Christian churches today where it is not normal to pray for healing, except in a general way? When was the last time I prayed with someone for healing?
Let us pray. Jesus, I want to do your will. If that means praying with people to be healed, so be it. If I see someone this weekend who needs prayer for healing, even if they only have a cold or a fever, help me to be bold enough to offer to pray with them. Thank you for always being with me.
How many miracles did Jesus perform while he was on earth? Lots, but we don't know precisely now many. John says toward the end of his Gospel that Jesus did many miracles that are not recorded, but that John wrote his gospel so that we might believe that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing have life in his name." (John 20:31)
Let's spend some time looking at a few over the coming weeks. More than once Jesus healed lepers. At that time lepers were shunned from society because leprosy was contagious. So being healed of leprosy was a life changing event. The man approaches Jesus on his knees, begging to be healed. "If you are willing, Lord, you can make me clean." Jesus replied, "I am willing. Be clean!" There is no doubt in the leper's mind that Jesus can heal him. The doubt is in whether or not Jesus would want to heal him. Jesus' response is to assure the man that he does indeed want to heal him. (This healing is recorded in Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-45 and Luke 5:12-16.)
There was no medical cure for leprosy until the 1990s.
For reflection: Jesus does indeed want to heal me. What do I want healed today? Will I believe more strongly in Jesus if I am healed? Will someone else believe in Jesus if I am healed?
Let us pray. Jesus, because you healed a man instantaneously of a disease for which there was no known cure, I ask for your healing. I need to be healed of _____. Like the man with leprosy, I will tell others what you have done for me.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.